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The Sraffa archives at the Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge, UK, have been open for consultation for more than a decade. Only recently, however, have a few works started to consider what is in these unpublished papers concerning Sraffa’s relationship to Marx, in contrast with the attention given to Ricardo or Marshall, Keynes or Hayek. This paper traces a conjectural history which stresses the discontinuity on Sraffa’s path towards Production of commodities by means of commodities. After the end of 1927, and until the early 1930s, he insisted on a ‘degeneration of the notion of cost and value’ when ‘food’ was substituted by ‘labor’. In this early period, the Italian economist appears mostly critical against the labor theory of value. Thing changed in the early 1940s after Sraffa had re-read Capital. Here he understands Marx’s ‘method of comparison’, and hence the crucial role of the lengthening of the social working day and of the theory of value in the origin of surplus value. For some years, Sraffa thought that his inquiry, which had a typically Ricardian object of analysis, would have vindicated Marx and the role of labor-value in economic thinking. In this same period, Sraffa rejected Bortkiewicz attacks against Marx. Later on, Sraffa had to partially change his mind on the continuity between his results and Marx’s. Nevertheless, even after publishing his book in 1960, he maintained a positive judgment on Marx’s transformation procedure, and used his conclusions to propose a redefinition of the notion of exploitation base on labor commanded rather than labor contained. Only the papers of the early 1940s allows for a deeper understanding of Sraffa’s normalizations in § 10 and §12 of his book, which may be interpreted as national income exhibiting nothing but the objectification of living labor. Those normalizations and Sraffa’s redefinition of the rate of exploitation ‘at prices’ also allow us to build a bridge with the New Interpretation of Marx suggested by Duménil and Foley.
Sraffa after Marx: an open issue
$ Riccardo Bellofiore*
This is characteristic of the vice of economists. Thinking that all can be reduced to the extreme simplicity of the money measure: also, that production is a purely technical question + that economic problems arise only in distribution. Sraffa, Lectures on Industry, 1941-43
1. Introduction The Sraffa Archives at the Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge have been open for consultation for more than a decade. During these years there have been many conferences, and several volumes have been published which take into account the new material. In a 1998 conference1 I remarked that there has been almost no discussion concerning the new perspectives that the unpublished papers of the Italian economist could suggest about his relation with Marx, this in contrast to the attention that has been given to Keynes or Hayek, Marshall or Ricardo. This is quite amazing since precisely this continuity or discontinuity between Sraffa and Marx had been one of the hottest topics in the 1970s and early 1980s. Having been a regular reader of the Sraffa papers throughout these years, I increasingly felt uneasy about this situation and found this silence too noisy. There may be some reasons for this disregard. The positions of most, though not all, of the authors working in the so-called ‘surplus approach’ is that Production of commodities by means of commodities showed how redundant, if not plainly wrong, was Marx’s value theory. On the other side, most Marxists nowadays live in a deep ignorance about Sraffa: he is very often reduced not just to Steedman, but even to Morishima or Samuelson, as all part of the same paradigm. A second reason relates to the Sraffa papers themselves. Different than with Marshall or Ricardo, Hayek or Keynes, in the unpublished papers the dialogue with Marx is found almost everywhere but is dispersed. More than that, the reference to Marx seldom became visible on the surface of Sraffa’s published output. A third reason has to do with the attitude of the majority of the researchers going through the Archive. They very often seem on a quest for confirmation of their own prior views rather than looking for the novelties the unpublished papers may bring. In my view, the Wren Library provides unexpected vistas of Sraffa’s landscape which partly changed my way of interpreting Sraffa’s theoretical contribution. In a joint 1998 paper with Jean Pierre Potier, we gave a first survey of ‘what’s new’ in the Archive2. At the end of what was mostly a biographical essay, I took the liberty to give a first glimpse to an interesting intellectual episode found in the Archive: the early reactions to Sraffa’s Production of commodities by economists interested to Marx, in 1960-61. The most important
* Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche ‘Hyman P. Minsky’, University of Bergamo, Italy, and Research Associate, History and Methodology of Economics Group, Faculty of Economics and Econometrics, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.
$ This research would not have been possible without the kind assistance of Jonathan Smith and all the staff at
the Wren Library. Financial help has been supported by a 2004 PRIN fund from the Italian Ministry of the University. I would like to thank Pierangelo Garegnani, literary executor of Sraffa’s unpublished papers, for permission to quote from archival material. I am also indebted to Scott Carter for the patience he had in checking my English. 1 The Proceedings of the Conference were published three years later. Cfr. Bellofiore 2001, especially section 4.
2 Cfr. Bellofiore-Potier 1998, section 10, 11, 12.
5 The paper was published in Italian in Il pensiero economico italiano in the same special issue where my work with Potier referred in footnote 2 is included. Some carefully crafted inquiries on Sraffa and Marx started to circulate at last.e. Marx is not really important from an analytical point of view. There exist several English versions. we find Marshall rather than Marx at the beginning. Difficult. who was a careful reader of sect. That is why in Sraffa’s book labor-values do not play any meaningful role. or a machine. because of the huge quantity of papers to be digested again and again. They actually go over some of the terrain. I quote the papers following the classification of the Sraffa Papers at the Wren Library. 2. Sraffa actually builds a criticism of Marx. so that there is no reason to privilege it. But Sraffa soon realizes that relative prices should be explained referring to the true absolute costs of commodities – i. I also showed exploiting some of the archival material how the relationship between the rate of interest and the distribution of the surplus in Production of commodities was actually thought by Sraffa himself in Marxian terms. probably knew it. some hard critical statements by Sraffa against Marx are registered in the Archive. Sraffa. I was then very happy when Guglielmo Chiodi asked me for a paper on Sraffa and Marx at his 2003 conference.e. However. my contribution to which is published here. 3 . this view is maintained by Sraffa in the years to come. thus what I write here must be seen as a first. In Sraffa’s opinion. The work of a wage worker is akin to that of a slave. After some initial hesitation.as the real starting point. A result of my reading will be that the ‘received opinion’ on Sraffa among the Sraffians is very often as limited as it is the standard Marxist reading of Sraffa. However. that I’ll cover here.. though not always. seen as complementary to mine. And difficult also because in my view to venture some meaningful hypotheses one must have to navigated the entire catalogue of papers and dived into them more than once. The Archive contains answers to their arguments written by Sraffa himself. being more sympathetic towards Petty and the Physiocrats. In a sense. on many points in much more detail. Kurz admits. turns upon the idea that Marshall and Marx could somehow be integrated. cfr. section 7. The initial hesitation. when I started writing my contribution to the conference.names here are those of John Eaton and Claudio Napoleoni. On the other hand. 3 See also later in this chapter. before the end of 1927. ‘physical’ real cost. may be highly distorting. but to show that there is still work to be done. From Marshall to Ricardo? I take here a 1998 paper by Heinz Kurz as representative of a widespread and influential ‘Sraffian’ position on Sraffa. questions to be answered. Amongst these. According to Kurz. for Kurz.4 of chapter 1 in Capital. published in 2001. ‘Cost’ is a set of material goods. and now they are in print4.5 Sraffa’s metaphysics is ‘socialist’. so the story they tell may be often. since ‘value’ itself is a ‘mystical’ entity. Certainly this is a difficult topic. my aim here is not to advance a complete alternative. More than that: “it is a purely mystical conception that attributes to labour a special gift of determining value” (D3/12/9: 89. The translation of this in terms of labor as human effort is judged a step back. A partial look. both authors of substantial early reviews published in Italian journals of Sraffa’ 1960 book3. as his copies in the ‘Sraffa collection’ (SC) well testify. those costs that cannot be abolished to produce commodities . In this period. or a horse. endeavor. 6 Anybody with minimal first-hand knowledge of Marx will agree that a statement like this would be approved by Marx. Volume 1. in fact. 4 The most important for what follows are De Vivo (2003) and Gilibert (2003). i. and that it is too early to draw definitive conclusions. the situation was changing in a positive direction. late ‘20s)6. it opens the way to a subjectivist perspective. Kurz 2002. and certainly not final. In the 1998 interpretation of the monetary aspects in Sraffa’s writings.
Kurz does not stress enough the possible role of Marxian (labour-)value theory for the interpretation and reconstruction of Sraffa. and thrown overboard so that he might draw Marx with him. and based upon it his theory of surplus value & a distinctive criticism of value.In Production of commodities prices and distribution are explained starting from two sets of data that can be observed: the productive system. A consideration of these developments in Kurz's position is not possible here. (Ashley)”. The ‘metaphysics’ of value Before 1928. Heinz Kurz. and not in a ‘successivist’ way as in Marx. and intellectual construction. Moreover. policy problems. “Ricardo was suddenly found unsound. the exchange ratios are nothing but the ‘values’. taking the wage as a share of the ‘net product’. in my view. Alternatively. ‘Values’. including the productive consumption. impartial. affecting not only ideology but also economic analysis. like Petty or Quesnay or Ricardo. Working on his book. Perri (2007). But he stresses that none of these two instances carry some theoretical weight for Sraffa. but also much more varied. Sidgwick and Marshall. has recognized how Marx's influence on Sraffa went much deeper. In a sense. Looking at these changes provides unique and unusual spectacles through which to look at Production of commodities. can and must be ignored. which may even influence the positive development of Sraffa’s legacy. In sum. Adventures of value theory. Sraffa’s judgment on Marx changed a lot and in significant ways. strictly speaking. After some time. 3. whose interests were seen as damaging to the other classes. presented a symmetrical theory of value. or with equal proportions of present and past labor. the Marx considered in these other essays is once again an extension of Ricardo. the latter can be accepted only when also Marginalist value theory is faultless. But the Marx needed by Sraffa was already in Ricardo. The ‘20s. the Standard System and the Standard Commodity are no substitute for the Labor Theory of Value. in more recent works (with Christian Gehrke and with Neri Salvadori : cfr. cfr. I show that Sraffa’s theoretical journey was not only different. As most authors within the surplus approach. relative prices are set at the ratios needed to re-establish the initial distribution of resources. Kurz recognizes that with r = 0. to interpret the book along lines not very far away from Steedman’s. a reading of Sraffa and Marx which is similar and complementary to mine. owing to Ricardo’s treatment of value) in a labour-theory of value. Marx was relevant for Sraffa only insofar as he too. If we assume ‘free’ competition and a given real wage. however. prices reflect not only the technology. was within this objectivist tradition. After 50 years of hegemony. Behind are at work class interests. without any anti-Marxian reaction. but also some social determinant such as the social conflict on the wage or monetary policy. presenting itself as if it was from the beginning only a purely logical. Jevons and Walras had a very clear political motivation: In 1867 Marx published Kapital: he took Ricardo’s cost-theory of value. Why? Because of a confusion: it was thought that Marx’s approach was grounded on the ‘cost of production’ in 7 In fact. 4 . economic theory arises from practical. Ricardo was against landlords. transformed (a very inconspicuous fact. Kurz’s standpoint in reading Sraffa is to start from Production of commodities. capitalist prices embodying an equal rate of profits are fixed simultaneously. Sraffa’s path is actually from Marshall to Ricardo. Of course. In fact. Gehrke-Kurz 2006 and Kurz-Salvadori 2005). the theoretical construction detaches itself from this origin. Between 1870 and 1875 the Neoclassical revolution by Menger. after a few years. affecting his own conclusions. and the rule of distribution. For the Italian author. In what follows. and must be postponed to other papers. In this interpretation. and then to re-read Sraffa’s making of his book in a way fitting harmoniously with this ‘happy ending’7. Sraffa consider Marx in some notes titled ‘Avventure della teoria del valore’ (D1/3: 3-4). Stefano Perri has developed. in rigorous analytical terms. Thus. Given the ‘physical’ methods of production.
the second ‘price theory’. the substance of Marx’s teaching was that labour being the only ‘cause’ of value it was ‘just’ or ‘natural’ that the whole product should go to it. What one should avoid is applying the analytical system good for one problem to that of the other. (D3/12/3: 10-11) In the quotes the italics are mine. for Sraffa.8 Reasonably. ‘Cause’ of value and ‘equality’ based on some natural situation has nothing in common. Menger and Walras in the years immediately following the publication of vol.(Note that the later development of Marshall. I of Capital. is that the two perspectives. Now. and identify the distribution among factors with the price determination (cfr. however. it is just because he thought that the latter was (at least partly) compatible with Marx. against Kurz’s position. and this equality may hold even if labor is not the only determinant of value. We are not entering into a discussion of Marx: I only want to point out this. that if Marx theory can stand upon the basis of Ricardo’s T. it appears that when Sraffa ‘begins’ from Marshall. at this stage. Classicals start from a social point of view. … As to Marx. Here. for Sraffa the opposition between the Classics and a Neoclassical like Marshall lies simply in their respective metaphysics. it should not be thought that he was consciously biased in his theory. that he was the champion of the rising capitalist against the landlord. and their main theme is. originally written as introduction to his Lectures on advanced value theory he had to teach in following years: The labour theory of value was devised by Ricardo as a stick to beat landlords (rent does not enter into cost of production). According to these readings. it was necessary for the defenders of the present system to devise a new theory. J. appears at first sight to remain the same. D3/12/3: 21). The Moderns. (D1/22: 2) 5 . The key point. and the historiographical position. He still objects to the mixing of the issue of distribution of income (which has to do with the macro-social perspective relative to the whole production of commodities) to the micro determination of individual prices. Each one is deemed adequate relative to its own chosen object of analysis. and that both can be reconciled on the technical issue of price determination. It is also clear that Sraffa sympathizes more with the macro approach. Classical Political Economy had 8 A very similar argument can be found in the Notes of the summer of 1927. the utility theory of value. According to the Italian economist. what is crucial is a notion of ‘intrinsic’ value referring to the totality of the commodities produced by human beings.9 Sraffa’s perspective on Marx starts to change from the end of 1927 when the theoretical path towards Production of commodities begins. whereas the underlining is Sraffa’s. the macro determination (and thereby the cause and nature) of the value of all commodities. this belief can only be held by anyone who has no knowledge of Marx’s mentality: there is no writer more scornful than he is of ‘droits naturels’. no one less likely to appeal to ‘legal’ or ‘juridical’ motives. 9 In these same years we find some critical notes towards Laski and Croce. the two approaches should be named differently: the first ‘value theory’. concentrate on the micro determination of individual prices. the fact that the utility theory of value had been found several times before (by Dupuit. this may give the impression that. But the ground of Marx is the equality established between cost (labor) and value. As to Ricardo.. of P. it can equally well stand on the basis of Marshall. and then its consequent distribution. first of all. of course. Ec. D3/12/3: 16). Gossen) and had fallen flat while when it was again almost simultaneously published by Jevons. But later. rather than alternative or complementary.. which was thought to be quite as effective in pulling down the basis of Marx's theory of value. are simply aiming at different problems (cfr. as Sraffa also calls the Neoclassicals.E. is not at all incompatible with it). having been advocated by Marx to beat the capitalists. General assumptions and methods must be carefully distinguished and taken separate (cf. as authors according to whom Marx’s value theory is an ‘ethical’ view based on an equality between value and labor in a ‘primitive’ or in a ‘natural’ society. The methodological view. And he still thinks that the Marginalist revolution is a class reaction to the Socialist and Marxian reading of Ricardo’s legacy. Thus. 1910). D3/12/3: 4-5).V.labor as the cause of value. Present Pos. found suddenly a large body of opinion prepared to accept it and support it is significant enough (Ashley.
as the counterpart of labour. have carried it a step further. Then somebody started measuring it in labour. ‘physical’ entity. Marshall. In a note on the ‘degenerazione del concetto di costo e valore’ (degeneration of the notion of cost and value) he writes: It was only Petty + the Physiocrats who had the right notion of cost as ‘loaf of bread’. A Socialist school arose in the twenties and thirties of last century which seized this opportunity of using against the capitalist the teaching of what was at the time the most orthodox political economy. in which his critique of capitalism is entirely based upon Ricardo's theory of value. Sraffa looks at Smith’s ‘toil and trouble’ as a notion implying the risk of easily slipping into the vulgar view that what matters is some psychological and non-objective cost. This caused a good deal of confusion amongst the orthodox Ricardian economists. p.e. (SP D2/4: 11-2 and 14-5). Henderson. But in a conflict between labour and capital it obviously becomes a strong argument in favour of labour. However. cost is something concrete and tangible that can be observed and measured empirically. all the product must go to labour and nothing must remain for the capitalist and landlord who have produced nothing. The ‘degeneration’ leads from the right view with cost seen as ‘food’. although of course he interpreted it in an entirely different way from the early Utopian socialists. and who. Smith interpreted labour as the ‘the toil and trouble’ which is the ‘real cost’ (Ricardo. which calls for some incentive to overcome this impediment to production. Now Davenport. the entirely new theory of value. In the other case. In a conflict between landlords and manufacturers. all value is produced by labour. the last step in the wrong direction.since. Menger in Austria. An amount which may be taken to be roughly constant. Then Senior invented Abstinence. For the former line. the sacrifice contributed by the capitalist to production. was understood by everybody in his time to mean that quantity of labour was the only cause of value. However. On the other hand. 6 . and Marx went only as back as Ricardo. the sacrifice of the worker. on the other. and these commodities to the amount needed to sustain a worker in a single day. was found (or invented) almost simultaneously and independently by Jevons in England. were already realising the difficulty of explaining by the labour theory of value the fact that for commodities which take different periods of time to be produced or require different proportions of fixed and circulating capital. On the one hand Marx published the Capital. abstinence + risk) as sacrifice. Labor as ‘sacrifice’ is the first step in the journey to subjective ‘disutility’. cost is something private (i. For the latter line. D3/12/4: 5). (D2/4: 18) In one case. as every day’s labour requires the same amount of food. the value is not proportional to the labour required for their production. and Walras in France.10 It is however in these months that we see the beginning of Sraffa’s reconstructive theoretical effort based on physical real costs. […] The difficulty was finally met by the introduction into economics of the notion of abstinence. to the less clear-cut perspective substituting ‘labor’ to cost. Then this was by Ricardo brought back to labour. and this is what in practice mattered. the cost of production is “the sum of ‘efforts and sacrifices’ involved in the abstinence of waitings and in the labour of all kinds that is directly or indirectly required for the production of a commodity”. 15n) and the ‘hardship’. Then A. “it is a stock of material that is required for the production of a commodity. the theory works in the interest of the manufacturers. as Ricardo has proved. we can reduce them to labor: this notion is here mostly a qualitative one. particularly when this word is meant to include both employers and workers. on one side. as a matter of fact. (D3/12/4: 4). […] The early seventies mark a turning point in the history of economics. according to Sraffa. Cassel. In the Lectures of 1928-1931.. or in his footnotes and in his private letters to Malthus and McCulloch. whatever may have been in the back of his mind. but not far back enough. based exclusively on marginal utility. Many years later he will return to a similar argument. But labor can be in its turn ‘reduced’ to the commodities consumed by the workers. […] [T]heir argument was very simple .unexpectedly opened the way to socialist views. and subsistence looked at as a real. Sraffa insists that the notion of labor in Ricardo and Marx “was still near enough to be in many cases equivalent” (cf. so much so that it is quite legitimate to take an hour of ordinary labor as the quantitative standard. There is no common unit to evaluate non-homogeneous physical use values going into ‘cost’. Then they proceeded to regard cost as actually an amount of labour. 10. this material being of course mainly food for the workers”. the divide between the two value theories is found in the different notion of cost: Petty-Physiocrats. who saw their doctrines used in such an unexpected way. necessary for production on the same foot as primary commodities of means of production. subjective) which can be measured only through the money that must be disbursed to 10 In the Lectures of 1928-31 Sraffa wrote: Ricardo's theory of value. therefore. And Cairnes unified all the costs (work.
That is: quantity of things used up in production vs. in the background of the 1960 book. It is true. as well as the metaphysics. the emotions that are associated with our terminology and frames (schemi mentali) .] If this is true it also shows (or it is an exceptional case? in physics it does not seem to be indifferent) how little our metaphysics affect the truth of our conclusions. or absence. and draws its practical consequences from it. 126). either by accident or by superhuman effort. All this notwithstanding. Unfortunately. it is enough to say that Sraffa does not seem to stress any big break with Marx. from the forms of Hegelian metaphysics to the forms of Hume's metaphysics [. what is absolutely necessary to make the theory living (lebendig). I suppose.overcome the disutility.that is. in this second phase. or the ‘net product’. In the middle of the 19th century. What impresses him is this: that in only 50 years after Ricardo a complete fog surrounded the truth. in getting again hold of the classical theory: he improves it. in competing theoretical approaches. Though different ‘techniques’ embody a different ‘metaphysics’.. ‘values are embodied human energy (cristallised)’ […] The metaphysics of the modern economists is that ‘a commodity…is the embodiment of measurable efforts and sacrifices’ (Marshall. The difficulty to be overcome is thereby one of ‘translation’. In a note entitled Metaphysics he even dares to claim: I foresee that the ultimate result will be a restatement of Marx. of the ‘surplus’. At present. individual motives and satisfactions. the danger lies in this. we are very liable to be mastered by her. and it was a kind of miracle: Still more terrific. If this is true. this does not impair the soundness of Marx’s basic theory. of Ricardo and the Classicals. that when we have succeeded in thoroughly mastering a technique. it is an exceptional example of how far a difference in metaphysics can make to us absolutely unintelligible an otherwise perfectly sound theory. What here about labor properly speaking? I will return to this in the next section. so that they were completely misunderstood. This is an example from the Lectures. Again: The typical case of Marx's metaphysics is his statement that ‘only human labour produces (causes) values’. by substituting to his Hegelian metaphysics and terminology our own modern metaphysics and terminology: by metaphysics here I mean. Memorials. as Kurz says. Marx’s theory is judged as adequate: a truth to be translated. Sraffa upholds a ‘physicalist’ approach. It has to be remarked that for Sraffa any enquiry about ‘value’ cannot be divorced from a view about its ‘nature’. (D3/12/4: 15). Kurz stresses very much the notes of the late 1920s. it was not understood anymore after so many decades. and meaning. about Ricardo: 7 . From here it follows the presence. 4..” (D3/12/4: 17) Likely. Our metaphysics is in fact embodied in our technique. a man succeeds. where Sraffa seems to disapprove the idea that relative prices has anything to do with human labor. this was the task he set to himself. on the same plane as Marx's ‘cristallised labour’ (D3/12/4: 16). and how the same truths can be expressed into widely divergent forms. Marx understood them perfectly well. that Marx’s views were linked to his metaphysics. From the ‘20s to the ‘40s: ‘fatal error’ versus the ‘Hypo’ I now consider what the Archive at the Wren Library suggests about an important change in Sraffa’s position on Marx that occurred in the early 1940s. capable of assimilation and at all intelligible. where value is linked to nothing more than the material cost. This would be simply a translation of Marx into English. but this latter looks quite reasonable for Sraffa. In truth. This change sheds light on a transition from the negative assessment of the labor theory of value in the late ‘20s to its implicit role.
of a horse and of a machine. Does the capitalist entrepreneur. It is by confusing the two senses that they [Ricardo and Marx] got mixed up to quantity of labour (in second sense) whereas they ought to have said that it is due to human labour (in first sense: a non measurable quantity. The clearest example can be found in a note from these years where he adamantly distinguishes between two notions of ‘human’ labor: first. From this alone. (D3/12/11: 36). which have cumulated in deductions (e. of a slave and of a horse. (D3/12/11: 64). In this period. some subjective sacrifice of the individual. as the ‘cause’ of value. but in this again he did not regard it as entering in the form of a human element. as abstinence. It is a purely a mystical conception that attributes to human labour a special gift of determining value. Sraffa is not very worried by Marx’s transformation of values into prices of production. or rather not a q. (D2/4: 38) In my view the point here is the same we already met: not so much a criticism of Marx (or Ricardo). p. second. as one of the factors of production (‘hours’ of labour’ or ‘q. No small breach relative to the Marxian position after all. the ‘macrosocial’ perspective. of labour’ has a meaning only in the latter sense). one cannot infer a criticism against the (very different) role that living labor plays in Marx. but only as time lost by capital goods in one employment. and capital being reduced entirely to wages of direct or indirect labour. while they might have been profitably employed elsewhere to support labour. it is revealing that this does not lead Sraffa to a wholesale rejection of the labor theory of value. One thing has to be added though. Cap. In spite of this. this early Sraffa suggests. which creates all outputs and values. the one according to which the value of the individual commodity can be traced back to the quantity of labor alone. they affect according to Ricardo in the same proportion all the different commodities and therefore do not affect relative exchange values. he intended to take capital into account. d. and thus commensurated to value. is nearly true). g. […] When in his later years the difficulties arising for the labour theory from the fact that the values of commodities requiring equal amounts of labour but different amounts of capital have as a matter of fact different values.labour is the ultimate constituent of cost not because it represents the human element in production. […] All trouble seems to have been caused by small initial errors. to be measured in hours or in kilowatts of human energy. he had already written down an even stronger criticism: The fatal error of Smith. is that it cannot be observed. Sraffa is criticizing only the latter view. at all). sometime during 1928-32 we actually encounter an explicit attack against Marx: There appears to be no objective difference between the labour of a wage earner and that of a slave. and then it cannot be measured. and not the former. through ‘labor’. 159. of a machine and of an element of nature […]. of course. make a great difference whether he employs men or animals? Does the slave-owner? (D3/12/9: 89). The problem with the macro perspective. food of worker = quantity of labour.11 This is not a ‘mistake’ of Marx (as Böhm 11 Italian in the original: equality of the rate of profits => value theory cannot be reconciled with the real movement and the phenomena of 8 . Marx has been to regard ‘labour’ as a quantity. It is merely a qualitative perspective. 1°. valore con il movimento reale e i fenomeni della produzione. and must be replaced out of the price fetched by the product. but only because it has necessarily used up a given amount of capital as its wages. The 15th of July 1928 he wrote: Marx. In 1927. Ricardo. but rather the risk of importing. Profits being proportional to capital. Still. who is the real ‘subject’ of valuation and exchange. eguaglianza sdp => inconciliabilità della t. vol III.
On the one hand. and the wage w. The key move will be Sraffa leaving behind the attempt to frame a ‘growth’ version of his equations. leaving traces behind it. in a French translation. and the same without an equal rate of profits. the surplus rate will be represented by the symbol S. 9 . Marx seems to be literally not so much at the starting point but rather at the concluding stage of Sraffa’s investigation. this ratio. at least from a normative point of view. it becomes an obstacle to the development of production: the forces of production created by capitalism can no more be dominated within it.e.thinks: and Hilferding?). in the early 1940s. who “always considers simple reproduction first. and will be reluctantly abandoned. or gross income. a ratio which may also be read as the value of the net product. 12 The remainder of the quote is interesting because it disconfirms another point in Kurz’s interpretation. Thus. while ‘second equations’ see the surplus totally accumulated at a proportional rate of growth. to Volume I or III of Capital. The ‘Hypo’. over the value of the means of production. or the non-wage capital advanced)15. at least in his own understanding. In July 1928. it corresponds to a real conflict within the structureframework of capitalism. is constant. Gilibert 2001. ‘commodities would be sold at their values’: but the appearance of capital being productive would fall to the ground. In the meantime. The reference is not. is truly the starting point for Sraffa’s long-life work on his book. 5. and thereafter “considers reproduction with the whole of surplus value”. ‘values’ actually represent for Sraffa a meaningful situation. but to the ‘schemes of reproduction’. and proportional accumulation. Sraffa himself has to build up his own line of reasoning in this sequence: “simple reproduction without surplus value”.. Bortkiewicz and the ’essential’ nature of the question production. though income distribution may be influenced by prices. The irreconciliability of the theory with reality arises out of an internal contradiction of reality itself: it reflects. 15 Later on. For a thorough analysis of the role of the ‘Hypo’ for Sraffa. the value of profits when wages = 0 over the value of anticipated capital. and it must realize the Marxian theory of value. “reproduction with accelerated accumulation” because of inventions (D3/12/9: 11)14. 14 The Italian original of this note can be found in Gilibert 2003: 29. however. on average. as we will see. According to Gilibert (2003). the Italian economist writes that in his book he has to develop the argument in a way which echoes Marx. will crucially drive his research for a few years. from the late 1920s Marx. if interest is paid in proportion to capital per unit of time. Sraffa had already begun to write down systems of equations. Sraffa reads for the first time Volume II. On the other hand. According to it. the maximum rate of profits R. profits would be proportional to the wages. as one might expect. the ‘surplus rate’ (i.. The ‘Hypo’ asserts that. if by some Pigouvian scheme of taxation and bounties it succeeded in realizing what Marx thought impossibile without capitalism coming to an end. if we delve into the prehistory of Production of commodities. the physical ratio of the social product over the whole of the anticipated means of production) is put equal to the ‘maximum rate of profits’ (i. I refer the reader to the excellent essay by Gilibert that I have found extremely useful: although I am almost sure he would disagree on the implications of my story on the labor theory of value.e. His ‘first equations’ are exactly simple reproduction with surplus value. In winter 1927. “reproduction with total accumulation”. “simple reproduction with surplus value entirely consumed”. 13 Cfr. Through it. as he calls it. (D3/12/7: 103) 12 But there is something more. he had sketched an ‘Hypothesis’ that he believes close to Marx. and again in implicit but clear contrast with the received opinion. the rate of profits r. The ‘third equations’ will however come only many years later. and would be shown to be a tax levied upon wages With r = 0. only in 192713. not Marshall or Ricardo. where capitalist consume their whole surplus value”.
This is something which cannot be cancelled without obscuring a major fact. The logic of marxism.” With this comment by Sraffa. Bortkiewicz. up to the point of labeling him as an ‘idiot’. in ‘values’ and in ‘prices’. What cannot but impress the contemporary reader is that Sraffa is consistently quite aggressive against Bortkiewicz. assumes different organic compositions of capital in the three sectors of the schemes of reproduction (D1/91: 10-1). Let us first consider some of the detailed comments Sraffa wrote in 1943 when he read. But the reduction to dated labor can be done only through an infinite series. the solution “while it supplies exactness. and then the ‘doubling’ of the rate of profits refutes Marx’s transformation procedure. I am referring to T. the organic composition is truly the most instructive element. machinery etc. Lawrence & Wishart. 10 . (D1/91: foglio ?). Regarding the first issue. and reduces their difference to the rotation period of capital. like Marx. Sraffa retorts that Marx was implicitly taking the Social Product as the standard: and.) by means of commodities (the labour power of wage labourers). in German. Jackson. 16 Almost the title itself of Production of Commodities can be found also in a paragraph of a very long book included in the Sraffa Collection. it obscures a fundamental fact. Bortkiewicz does not clearly distinguish constant and variable capital. owing to the expenditure of – labor. They are capitalistically produced when the labour of production is that of wage-labourers. following TuganBaranowski. and that values must be taken as the starting point of the corrections. together with a more fundamental one. If this is forgotten. Sraffa marked it on the margin. Interestingly enough. that the mass of profits is equal to the mass of surplus value. Marx argues that values and prices are identical for the products with the same organic composition of the social average.We will return on this crucial point later on. As a consequence. sacrifice (by concealing it) the essential nature of the question – that is. Bortkiewicz’s article on the transformation (Wertrechnung und Preisrechnung in Marxschen System). A commodity is something produced.A. a recurring theme in Sraffa’s considerations is the following. the necessary ‘correction’ due to the deviations of prices from values must always be seen exactly like that: as a modification relative to another. so that the two are in the same proportion relative to Social Income. Dialectics. To affirm. Sraffa insists that Marx’s transformation is approximately correct. as in Bortkiewicz. Capitalist production is therefore a system of producing commodities from commodities (raw materials. without disguising something vital and necessary to the theory16. Let us start with the former. In his notes against Bortkiewicz. not a finite one. the organic composition must be the same in the various sectors (D1/91: 19-20). Against Bortkiewicz. This infinite reduction cannot ever be pursued to the end since in practice there always remains a commodity ‘residue’ which can never be set aside. and in their developed form exchanged for money. Sraffa rejects Bortkiewicz’s criticisms against the transformation of values into prices as well as against the law of the tendential fall of the rate of profits. From here it follows that the dual accountancy. but Bortkiewicz complains that the reference should have been to the commodity taken as the standard. But not all things produced at all times are commodities. we are of course projected forward: we even see straight in front of us the same title of his 1960 book. however. Sraffa goes on adding that the true. that commodities are produced by labour out of commodities. Sraffa brings up a formal objection. This universalisation of the commodity and all that it implies is the distinguishing fact of the capitalist economy. They are commodities only so far as they are exchanged.e: bought) in a relatively ‘open’ or ‘free’ market. basic objection to Bortkiewicz is another one: the real objection (though somewhat vaguer) is this: that B’s point of view. for social capital. for the sake of obtaining absolute exactness in a comparatively trifling matter. different starting point. chapter VI: «The Dialectic of Capitalist Production»: Marx begins with the most central fact in capitalist economy in its most general aspect : the Commodity. The comments are found in a small black notebook (D1/91). (i. hired. as long as there is a positive rate of profits. But with an interesting qualification: production of commodities ‘out of’ commodities is done only through – and. then.
is equal to its value. 6. of course. Sraffa quickly realizes that his Hypo cannot play the role he hoped for. Sraffa admits that Bortkiewicz “appears justified in concluding that. in the context of a rebuttal leveled against BöhmBawerk. But B. In fact. the correct solution is to bring (1) into agreement with (2).The argument now is that there is no reason to think that organic compositions systematically differ. given the wages in commodities. Sraffa shows that he changed his mind relative to the late 1920s significantly. and are bound to lead to contradictions. the sum of the prices of production of the commodities produced is equal to their values’ (Kap. 11 . This is the same as the well-known statement of Marx that ‘in society. This takes us back to Sraffa’s ‘Hypo’ in the early 1940s. wants to solve the contradiction by bringing (2) into agreement with (1). that the new perspective leading to Production of commodities can be fully understood without considering his new way of looking at that theory. and on the other (2) to take the mass of profits as a given proportion of the product of labour. + that therefore the price ratio of the two aggregates is approximately constant with respect to variations in the rate of profits is equivalent to saying that the price of the net social product. On the contrary. and even quantitative role. The two points of view are incongruous. at all values of r. explanatory. the proportions of surplus value and of profits in Social Income are not the same anymore. if both are measured in terms of the Standard Commodity. or when inputs and outputs have the same ‘composition’. Of course. And he adds: ‘It is only in capitalist production as a whole that this general law maintains itself as the governing tendency. It is necessary to bring out the Revenue aspect of wages. the latter is good only in a one commodity system. it is still tarred with commodity-fetishism. p. it is not exactly but approximately that the two quantities coincide. + this is done by regarding them as w. p. And if organic compositions differ. Böhm takes this for a tautology of which he makes fun at great length […].. This is (1) brought to agree with (2). considering all branches of production as a whole. a role that needs to be brought to light. For the point of view of (1) useful as it is as a starting point considers only the fodder-and-fuel aspect of wages. and why he takes a road which turns out to be partially wrong? This is Sraffa’s answer: What Marx does is. no matter what happens in luxuryindustries. 140). 138). and the conclusion that all capital must be taken into account for the rate of profits becomes true. (D1/91: foglio?) Any mechanicistic view of distribution must thereby be abandoned. III. or a proportion of the Revenue. the rate of profits is ipso facto determined.” But – Sraffa asks – what is the meaning of what Marx is trying to do. as other interpreters. but Marginalist value theory would also be rescued unscathed. We can now go back to the 1943 notes. + the methods of production of wagecommodities. which are chosen for their technical properties + these are quite independent of the organic compositions of the capital producing them (D1/91: 40-1). I am not arguing that this alone is enough for him to reinstate the labour theory of value. as the constantly changing average of perpetual fluctuactions’ (ib. this looks like the most un-Sraffian proposition of all. After Production of commodities. ‘Use of the notion of surplus value’ Arguing in the way he does against Bortkiewicz. 1. always only in a very intricate and approximate manner. But I do not think. on the one hand (1) to take wages as given (inventory) in commodities. Not only Marx’s. And they do coincide because the national produce consists of a larger number of different commodities. The hypothesis that the average organic composition of the means of production + that the net product are approximately equal. I think that for Sraffa it maintains a significant theoretical. for subsistence. However. The point is raised again in 1945. in favour of a view where distribution is linked to social aspects.
Of course. on the threshold of the state in which only the necessary labour is performed. as Sraffa himself stresses in his notes againt Bortkiewicz. + made the comparison between the two extreme cases. whatever the ruling system of exchange ratios. the prices practically coincide with values. or bought. Of course.e. the scale to be used changes + the prices move nearer (as the rate of profits is reduced) to values – so does the ‘point’ aimed at change. as we start from the actual state. On the other hand. But we may advance a speculative reconstruction. with shorter + shorter working days. The rate of surplus value is therefore to be understood as a share of social income. as a whole. To be clear. he rightly sees this is not as a ‘New Interpretation’ and advances it as a sort of ‘reconstruction’ of Marx’s argument. all labourers will have had their hours reduced in the same proportion. it would have led us astray: the ‘point’ indicated by prices [i. i. against what is nowadays the main line among the younger generation of Marxian scholars. Social income. the product is also reduced. we use its own scale. or values which equalize surplus value for workers: We must imagine to move gradually from the actual state. and the other which assumes the prolongation of the social working day relative to that situation with prices unchanging. What matters in defining ‘exploitation’ is how much of (social) labour (producing national income in money) is ‘commanded’. Is it legitimate to ask what ‘grounds’ the idea that only labor is the ‘macro’ determinant of Social Income. it goes also against my personal prejudices before reading the Sraffa unpublished papers. Marx’s argument is based on a hypothetical comparison between two situations: the one where living labor is equal to necessary labor. Sraffa seems to side with the macro view that the social product can be referred back to nothing else than labor. As I have just shown. + the point aimed at with that determined by the scale of values. edited by Dora Torr. (D3/12/46: 58-9) After some lines: Note that if we have adopted straightway values. But if we have adopted prices. until.e. We can sum up this suggestion along the following lines. a statement like this is rather bold as it goes against the stream – somehow. Sraffa then turns on its head Marx’s reasoning. we should have obtained the same. must be traced back to nothing but direct labor.Though only implicitly. so that the surplus in the end disappears. and that the latter has to be seen as the cause of the former. Variable and constant capital are advanced in money. different reductions in 17 “The prolongation of the working day beyond the point at which the labour would have produced just an equivalent for the value of his labour power …” The quote is taken from p. supported by many traces dispersed in the Archive. We are very near to the core of the 1960 book. 12 . which begins with a quote from chapter 7 of Capital. since in the first situation there is no rate of profits. + made the comparison. it is very unlikely to find a ‘smoking gun’ to support this conjecture.the ‘net product’ exhibits in money nothing but the objectification of living labor? One of the most interesting hints comes from Sraffa’s notes starting from the 13th of November 1940. an amount which changes when workers modify the composition of their expenditure. When this happens. speaking of a shortening of the social working day that starts from the actual ‘real’ situation. by the money wage: not the labor necessary to produce the subsistence goods that workers buy. correct result. says Sraffa. The choice. Sraffa in the 1940s abandons the ‘fetishistic’ view of the wage as given at the subsistence level and prefers to look at it as the proportion of the new ‘value added’ produced in the period. i. prices … as we pass to successive other states. shortening the working day. prices cannot but be proportional to values.e.. so that – to follow more closely Marx’s categories . of course. 518 of Capital volume I. is between starting from actual prices which equalize the rate of profits on advanced capital. if we interpret it in a way which finds a connection to the new monetary approaches to Marxian value theory. entitled: Use of the notion of surplus value. in the Sraffa Collection. Volume 117.
on which Marx’s comparison is predicated. a interesting valuable aspect has been overlooked or what might be called the Value Theory of Labour. to begin his discourse when the process of production has ended. joint production. he says. It is rather constructed around a counterfactual thought experiment including a ‘lengthening’ of the social working day. the ultimate foundation of bringing ‘new value’ back to ‘living labor’. and measurable as a quantity.” (D3/12/44: 3) 19 In the early ‘40s Sraffa also considers Cassel’s objection against Marx’s quest for a ‘third’ common element. so that profits are just a deduction from the ‘net product’. or ‘generalized’ commodity exchange (Rubin). there can be no doubt that (nobody doubts. As a matter of fact. Surplus value exists only as long as labor in motion exceeds the labor required to reproduce the workers. of the formation – of economic magnitudes. at least in the period 1940-2. Once more. the distinction between labor-power and living labor risks to be forgotten. The argument is supported by such critics as 13 . For. play an important part in this counterfactual comparison. whatever disputes there may be about the determination of value by quantity of labour. because. since Sraffa’s object of analysis is a typically Ricardian one. He is amongst the few who clearly see in Marx the presence of what Rubin called the method of comparison. Note that exchange and the market. we do not have here any contrast between a capitalist distortion and some ‘natural’ economy (Croce). fixed capital. though. and living labor is now dead in the commodity. Looking at the economic system post factum cannot but make the Marx’s labor theory of value redundant.e. in my view. when the rate of profits is zero. as far as I know) that the value of a commodity (its price for r = 0) determines (i. What is more interesting. This is. he says. and therefore before commodities are exchanged on the market. + some less..different industries. Moreover. is a Value Theory of Labor. The following comments are to be found in one of his copies of Capital (SC 3731): When two commodities are equal in value ‘there exists in equal quantities something common to both’. embodied in the commodities exchanged. This does not detract from the fact that Sraffa grasps what others definitely did not. in the end he had to revert to the usual practice – namely. we see that Sraffa. this is complicated in many situations (dated labour. the phenomenal form. before the production process comes to an end. than the necessary hours. including the case where living labor equals necessary labor. All this.). At that point. Something like this: if two things are equal in one respect. In chapter 7 the core problem was that of the ‘constitution’ – i. thinks that situations with prices proportional to values are theoretically meaningful18. 18 Of course. after the buying and selling of labor power. yet different from it. measures) the quantity of labour which directly or indirectly has entered into its production. This theme will re-emerge when the final manuscript for the book starts to be written down. who preferred to speak of an ‘elliptical’ comparison). which goes from value to labor. and interestingly enough he rejects it. The 21st of February of 1955 he wrote: In the dust raised by the controversies on the Labour Theory of Value. etc. They both represent significant capitalist situations. In his notes of the 1940s Sraffa is not very much interested in a Labor Theory of Value. they must be also equal in some other respect. Sraffa stops here. which from labor goes to value. the determination of the labor ‘contained’ in commodities is straightforward. at least ideally. in contrast with Rubin (or Croce. The value is the mode of expression. Capital as a whole is able to get value and surplus value if and only if it is capable of imposing workers to work in the quantity and quality needed for its valorization to take place in production as such as a contested terrain. would have been false when the hypothetical state was reached – for on the basis of values some labourers would be working more. In other words. Sraffa seems also to understand that the two sides in the comparison are not imaginary. inside the capitalist labor processes. ultimately based on this ‘method of comparison’. of course. On the other hand. To talk of a variability of the social working day.19. Nevertheless. It is clear. that the expenditure of labor ‘making up’ the productive configuration is going on. Sraffa understands that Marx’s comparison is based not on a reduction of wages. of something contained in it. Marx’s answer to the question about the origin of surplus value revolved around the extraction of living labor as a variable amount. Wicksell would have benefited from it – it would have answered some of its puzzles. starting from a given ‘productive configuration’ with known levels of inputs and outputs and with the remuneration of labor exhausting the value of ‘net product’. What is the form of this argument? It appeals to some generally accepted principle.e. which should be stated explicitly. is out of the question.
senza dar via il segreto del rapporto costante fra C e V+S: se possibile. Qui è il punto delicato: dire il più possibile. a ratio independent of prices. dire che la composizione organica (usar termini volgari) dei due gruppi è identica: e forse esaminare in dettaglio gli effetti dei cambiamenti di r e w sui prezzi di singole merci. force. force. o parte del capitale) e prodotto che è indipendente da r. who say. esclusivamente come oggetti curiosi e di interesse locale. 20 The note is in Italian. The Standard System allows to accurately measure the ‘distortion’ of prices from values. e finalmente si possono risolvere le equazioni reali. What then? In the early 1940s. not an illusion. Va condotta come segue. evitando assolutamente ogni accenno a somiglianze con Old Moor [Marx] e soprattutto l’uso delle categorie fondamentali: dove possibile. Sraffa subsequently decreases the wage.d. or weight. mostrandone tutte le proprietà con ricchi dettagli (come il cap. Riprendere il metodo dei Toys. It is opposed by the Cassel-type of critics. ecc. can be also measured (+ therefore defined) in an independent way. nelle equazioni. If national income and the wage are measured in terms of the Standard Commodity. ‘Two things are exchanged in a certain ratio. it is said that they have the same length. dal quale poi si deriva subito il vero r. bisogna avere indicato gli elementi che saranno usati poi. per il passaggio alla produzione continua (industriale): costruzione del Toy II (quadrato) e del sistema di equazioni (diff?) per la produzione continua. Prima sviluppare le 1° equazioni. Concentrare l’attenzione su questo metodo di soluzione: possiamo dare a r un valore arbitrario (p. not against Marx’s. All this notwithstanding. At the same time. This forces a change in prices because of the different proportions between labor and means of production in the various industries. why should they share any other property in common. Fino a questo punto l’indagine deve essere stata condotta in termini rigorosamente volgari. the rate of profits departs from Marx’s ratio between the surplus value and the value of constant and variable capital. Yet. Con questo metodo passare di nuovo tutte le equazioni. r con S. rendendo così le equazioni lineari. This may be a mere restatement of the result of measurement in other words – which merely gives an illusion that there is a substance (length.d. A questo punto soltanto dire che è Old Moor.) Poi introdurre il Toy I nelle equazioni III. that in Production of commodities these arguments are absent from sight. more or less. ma in ogni caso. In the parts where I follow Gilibert’s rendition. The ratio between the value of the surplus and the value of the means of production is identical to the Standard relationship as a ratio between different quantities of the same composite commodity: that is. I have done some slight alterations: Questa manovra è il centro dell’operazione. From this point of view. in Italics). Cassel’s criticism would be valid against Neoclassical theory. It is partially reported and translated in English by Gilibert (2003: 30). NB: This way of putting things begs the question in favour of the Cassel point of view: it is absurd to put the two ‘respects’ or properties on the same plane. then the statement is a real one. Marx regards one as the expression. Finalmente dire che il risultato è identico ad avere usato la Q.. rilevare la necessità di introdurre il cap. when Sraffa believed in the generality of his Hypo. poi introdurre in queste w come variabile.L. etc. Esaminando il Toy III si nota un rapporto fisso (fra capitale. the appearance. then the statement is a law. it is also not by chance that Sraffa starts from the ‘simple’ rule where prices are proportional to values. When distribution changes. so that a positive rate of profits arises. fisso: passare alla costruzione del gruppo di macchine (Toy I). the sequence of the argument he had in mind to take ‘marginal utility’ as the ‘other thing’. the inverse relationship linking the wage to the rate of profits becomes linear and transparent. then. But if it can. It reconstructed. e tutto dipende dal suo successo. es. e ottenere il ‘rapporto fisso’. due to the circumstance that the ‘net product’ and the means of production are made of an aggregate of commodities in proportions which diverge from the weights they should have in the Standard system. Crosscap20. or force etc. poi le seconde (con r). unica quantità costante) e poi mostrare che il più semplice metodo è di sostituire. A questo punto. as a share of social income. + the other as the substance. 14 . It is here quoted in its entirety (the parts missing in Gilibert are inserted below.7. 10% o 5% o 1%). e notare mestamente come non si possano risolvere. ma senza dirne lo scopo. contrasto con singola macchina. there is the extreme case when w = 0 and r = R. riservare il clou per più tardi. Evitando accuratamente di mettere in luce le altre conseguenze. if two objects are of equal length.) which is behind the measurement. what do they have in common in that ratio?’ Cassel answers: ‘why should there be a cause?’ Now if a meauserement is made + two things are found to be equal. beside[s] the same length. etc. complex variations of prices set in. This is the ‘critical proportion’. the maximum rate of profits. Qui viene il Crosscap. varia con r. as it was with the Hypo. come l’ammortamento è fisso. with the wage. Production of commodities by means of commodities and the rate of exploitation It is no accident. risolverlo. Thus to say that two things exchange for one another ‘because they have the same exchange value’ is tautological if each value cannot be measured in any other way than by seeing how they exchange. equal to 1 and the equal rate of profits equal to 0.L. But it may not: if the length. tracciare la genealogia di ogni merce (rispondendo alla domanda: perché L? perché non cavalli o carbone? risposta formale. e risolverle ma finora (se possibile) non aver parlato della Q. he wrote a note. accorgersi che ciò fornisce un metodo (trick) per risolvere tutte (? o almeno I-III) le equazioni precedenti. which has to be recurrent.
then the seconds (with r). We should proceed as follows. get the ‘fixed ratio’ from which we can derive the real r. a defense which is all the more significant because it comes after the book has been published. in 1961. As Gilibert reminds us. In any case. By examining the Toy III. we declare that this result is identical to that obtainable by using the Q. A mediation is now necessary to obtain this result. volume III. e linee dove si son fatti questi errori. Being careful to avoid highlighting other consequence.. A clear and transparent fundamental relation emerges. e profitti – mai plusvalore. and solve them . try to do that without contradicting the fundamental definitions (therefore. At this point. eventually. the Q[uantities] of L[abour]. without explaining the purpose. it is better to leave the clou for a later time.i. From here. nelle 1° equazioni valore. contrast with the individual machine. Wherever possible. but we must not reveal the secret about the constant ratio between C and V + S. the procedure should rather be: first. After what Sraffa felt as the ‘disaster of the model’ this sequence does not hold anymore. and profits – never surplus value. with r and w inversely connected through a linear equation. if possible. in the other prices as in B. trace the genealogy of each commodity (by answering the question: why L[abour]? Why not horses or coal? The formal answer: it is the only constant quantity) and then show that the simplest method consists in substituting S [the rate of surplus] for r in the equation: Now. determine the relative prices starting from the equal rate of profits going on at each wage rate. in un Errata. we may examine in detail the effects of a change in r or w on the prices of individual commodities. to be revealed only at the end of the book. nelle altre prezzi in termini di B. (In employing vulgar terms. the vulgar language must prevail: in the end. refer to pages and lines where these errors have been made)). which can also be read as corresponding to Marx’s ‘value’ rate of profits with no variable capital . indicare le pagg. and since it embodies a reaction against some arguments denying the continuity between Production of commodities and Marx. say this is Old Moor. This is clearly behind another defense of the transformation procedure as we find it in Capital. ‘values’. senza contraddire le definizioni fondamentali (così. up to now. as an ad hoc construction derived from the Standard System which is implicit in the ‘real’ system. Then. it is important to point out the elements which will be used later on. the actual prices of production may be computed. It follows the calculation of R. but. and sadly take note they cannot be solved. and thereby prices proportional to labor contained. the maximum rate of profits.develop in the book. and eventually solve the real equation. because the Hypo is recognized to be too restrictive. i. that this should be kept hidden to the implied reader all the way through. All this notwithstanding. to become aware of the fact that this gives a method (trick) to solve all (? or at least I-III) the preceding equations. by developing the 1st equations. Perhaps. we introduce Toy I in equations III.e. The point was. Finally. Sraffa insisted. then by introducing w as variable. Focusing the attention on this method of solution: we can give to r an arbitrary value (i..o. So far the inquiry must have been scrupulously developed in vulgar terms. definitely avoiding any reference to similarity to Old Moor [Marx] and particularly the use of fundamental notions. and only now. By this method. il linguaggio volgare deve prevalere: alla fine. Take up again the method of Toys to proceed to continuous (industrial) production: construction of Toy II (square) and of the system of (diff?) equations for continuous production. that the value of net product and the total quantity of labor employed are ‘normalized’. we can deal once more with all the equations . 15 . first of all. cioè per quanto possible. One had to start with r = 0. He was convinced his study would have shown that Marx was unequivocally correct. then. If the Hypo was right the analysis could have been done referring to labour-values. if possible. in an Errata. how depreciation is fixed.L. taking into account the different levels of the wage. at this point. just as peculiar aspects of local interest. First. 10% or 5% or 0%) thus linearizing the equations. solve them. and the latter the standard for labour. a ratio which is independent of r.which will be actually published some months later. r = R (1 – w). without mentioning. setting both equal to 1: in order that the former is the standard for prices. I refer here. at this point take this latter as the reference to measure wages and prices. the maximum rate of profits. the Standard Commodity. as the ratio of total surplus value over constant capital. We can possibly say that the organic composition (expressed in vulgar terms) of the two groups is identical. Where there is some absolute contradiction. we notice a fixed ratio (between capital or part of it) and product.. In caso di assoluta contraddizione.e. Here the Crosscap comes in. to Sraffa’s answer to Napoleoni’s review article . we observe the need to introduce fixed capital: going into the construction of the group of machines (Toy I). though with deviations. construction of the Standard System. and showing all the properties with fullness of details (how cap. Sraffa is still convinced of a strong parallel between his conclusions and Marx’s. in 1° equations value.)) Translation: This manœuvre is pivotal for the whole operation and everything depends on its success. in Giornale degli economisti but that Sraffa already (Nell’usare termini volgari cercare di farlo in modo. It was an exceedingly confident programme. computation of R. changes with r.e. Assume. This is the sensitive point : we must tell everything .
In both cases. nella sua 3a edizione. and which was not so well received. What I called the ‘standard commodity’. the quantities which come into play dealing with distribution theory. usando il saggio generale del profitto che ottiene dalla media dei saggi particolari dei singoli rami di produzione. 16 . Total Wage: that is. i coefficienti del sistema tipo sono i ‘pesi’ che si devono dare ai singoli saggi del profitto perché la loro media ponderata dia esattamente il saggio generale del profitto.knew through the common friend Raffaele Mattioli. Lo stesso risultato Marx lo raggiunge mediante la trasformazione dei valori in prezzi di produzione. and the aggregates can again be measured through labour values. the authors begin with a labour theory of value applied to the exchange of individual commodities in a primitive society. the usual one. not the prices of individual commodities. except for the fact that profits here arises because of a reduction in wages. dei Principi di Ricardo. This is what Ricardo does in his 3rd edition when he chooses as the ‘invariable standard of value’ a commodity which stays in the ‘right middle’ between the commodities whose price is composed almost alone by wages and those whose price is based primarily on profits. National Income. in Italian. where he uses the general rate of profits derived as the average of the particular profit rates of the individual branches. is found substantially correct. Quella che ho chiamato « merce-tipo » e che ha incontrato così poco favore. But if we consider. is “Risposta a Napoleoni” (Reply to Napoleoni) and it is dated 31st December 1960: There is no more contradiction between the 1st and the 3rd volumes of Capital than between the 1st and the 3rd edition of Ricardo’s Principles. and the calculation of the general rate of profits). i valori di grandi aggregati di merci (quali il prodotto nazionale. with aggregates measured in labor-values. Questo è quel che Ricardo fa quando. il sovrappiù sociale. e cioè le quantità che entrano in gioco quando si tratti di teoria della distribuzione. but the values of big aggregates (such as National Product. anziché i prezzi delle singole merci. But now the ‘approximation’ in it can be remedied through the Standard Commodity. in these latter the fluctuations of those prices approximately balance themselves. I have corrected some errors of transcription in this latter. è proposta come un metodo per risolvere questo problema con esattezza anziché approssimativamente: essa occupa precisamente la posizione intermedia richiesta da Ricardo e soddisfa la condizione di ‘invariabilità’ che egli richiede per questo problema: inoltre. according to a uniform rate of profits. nel produrre la varie merci e i prezzi di alcune di queste salgono e quelli di altre scendono. the coefficients of the standard system are the ‘weights’ to be applied to the individual rate of profits so that the weighted average gives exactly the general rate of profits21. Marx’s transformation. under the assumption that all the produce goes to the workers (or. if the equations of the real system depicted at the beginning are reduced so that they employ the same quantity of labour. which is not very relevant since what is at issue now is not the origin but the distribution of the surplus. Questi valori vengono poi modificati quando vi sia da tenere conto di un sovrappiù che si suppone distribuito ai capitalisti in base a un saggio uniforme del profitto: i valori di scambio ne risultano modificati secondo la maggiore o minore quantità di capitale impiegata per unità di lavoro. che non vi sia differenza nel capitale impiegato nei vari rami). e gli aggregati possono di nuovo essere misurati dal valorelavoro. Marx gets to the same result through the transformation of values into prices of production. sceglie come ‘misura invariabile dei valori’ una merce che formi il ‘giusto mezzo’ fra i due estremi formati dalle merci il cui prezzo si compone quasi esclusivamente di salario e da quelle basate prevalentemente sul profitto. It fills the intermediate position wanted by Ricardo and it fulfils the ‘invariability’ requirement he asks to solve the riddle. di determinazione del sovrappiù. il salario complessivo. Social Surplus. non c’è più contraddizione fra il 1° e il 3° volume del Capitale di Marx di quanto vi sia fra la 1a e la 3a ed. Exchangevalues are adjusted according to the higher or lower amount of capital employed for unit of labour in the production of the different commodities: the prices of some of them rise while the prices of others fall. si comincia con una teoria del valore-lavoro che si applica allo scambio delle singole merci nella società primitiva in cui si suppone che tutto il prodotto vada ai lavoratori (o almeno. that there is no difference in the capital employed in the various sectors). basta che le equazioni del sistema reale da cui si parte vengano ridotte in modo che esse impieghino uguale quantità di lavoro. il reddito nazionale. These values are then modified to take into account the distribution of the surplus among capitalists. The title of the note. and not approximately. (D3/12/111/249-51) This text was paraphrased line by line in Bellofiore-Potier (1998). 21 The following is the Italian original: In realtà. is put forward as an instrument to resolve this problem exactly. more or less. the determination of the surplus. Quando però si considerino. It has been published for the first time in the Italian original by Ranchetti (2004). e di calcolo del saggio general [sic] del profitto) in questi le fluttuazioni delle singole merci si compensano approssimativamente. The argument is. In entrambi i casi. Moreover.
const cap. profits. corresp..e.. of commodities (wages. goes as far as to re-read his scheme as a novel characterization of the ‘rate of exploitation’: 17 . of any large aggr. it is the St. and with national income ‘exhibiting’ the total direct labour in the period. however. who relies on hypothetical deviations: suppose. ----------------------------------But what does this average ‘approximate’ to? i. so that the ratio between their aggr. that the capitalists changed the comp. in the many decades necessary to write it.namely. com.e. so that the ‘productive configuration’ has a history. This should be good enough till the tiresome objector arises.. to trace down the ‘constitution’ of the book itself.? i. the same whether measured at ‘values’ or at the p. (Better: the caps switched part of their consumption from comms of lower to higher org. at ‘values’. of their consumption (of the same aggr. An argument Sraffa may well have had at the back of his mind when finishing his book. Com. who too had just published a review article in a theoretical journal near the Italian Communist Party. With a ‘degree of liberty’ in distribution. the rate of s. To understand this.v. to look at the ‘photography’ of the inputs and outputs ‘after the harvest’ as if it were just the last instantaneous picture of a ‘movie’. (D3/12/111. in § 12. price) to commods of a higher org. What is needed is to go ‘behind’ the given methods of production. if one gives this deeper meaning to the normalizations in §12 and §10 a consequence follows. in his dialogue with Eaton. the wage as part of the net product is.. rather as the labor ‘commanded’ by the money wage as a variable share. but with an interesting twist: The proportions of M. If then one must define which is the average to which the comp. was fully appreciated by Sraffa himself. as the labour ‘contained’ in a given real subsistence basket. 140) What can sustain Sraffa’s argument of a line of continuity with Marx. are based on the assumption that the comp. the aggr. of prod. what would it have to be composed of (what weights shd the average have) to be exactly the St. if it were not for the tiresome objector. As we know.) It is clear that M's pros are not intended to deal with such deviations. Of course. an expression of nothing but a quantity of labor. This is obviously true.) is approx.and many similar puzzles can be invented. immediately. (rate of s. and to understand the process of their constitution . clearly stated in all this quotes? My interpretation is that this position cannot be rigorously maintained if one stays strictly within the boundaries of the analytical object described in Production of Commodities. of prod which is correct? . comp. should conform for the result to be exact and not only approximate. national money income is taken as the standard of prices. price of each remaining unchanged . This consequence. because the link between prices and labor is too loose. he says. Putting arbitrarily the ‘monetary expression of labour time’ also equal to 1. comp. Comm. to any rate of s.) consists of a random selection. In § 10 direct labour of the society is also set equal to 1. Marx assumes that wages and profits consist approximately of quantities of st. and one would leave it at that. Società. rate of p. The long journey recorded in the Sraffa papers allows us to give a deeper meaning to the ‘normalizations’ written down in § 10 and § 12. and since it is not intended to be applied to detailed minute differences it is all right. They are based on the assumption (justified in general) that the aggregates are of some average composition. as I anticipated. while it would remain unchanged at p.The same train of thought characterizes some notes on John Eaton. The Italian economist actually met an argument to justify the idea that behind ‘new value’ in money there is nothing but ‘living labor’: the argument in chapter 7 of Marx’s Capital. This is in general justified in fact. which is clearly behind his defense of Marx’s transformation and the role he declares for his Standard Commodity.v.. this is exactly the ‘postulate’ of the New Interpretation proposed by Duménil and Foley. would decrease if calc. Not. is certainly not redundant. while the workers switched to the same extent theirs from higher to lower. who quite consciously.v.
becomes ill defined. reject this question. it is clear that the ‘prices’ rate would be the correct one. somehow. whether at values or prices. It is interesting as a further confirmation of this interpretative suggestion that. this answer is not found adequate at the present day. Although still correct in fact. From which I should conclude that the relevant rate of s. He would say that his system is based on the assumption that the ratio of these aggregates is approximately constant. was much more positive than is nowadays admitted both between friends and foes. however.’ 18 . And if such a situation occurred.= ----. More than that. The reason given is that the latter is ruled by the rate of interested fixed by monetary policy and by the banking system: It seems to me that the only rational way to calculate is by starting with the interest rate r (which is a matter of observation) and to deduce from it the rate of exploitation (that is.. commodities does not affect the degree of exploitation. even after Production of commodities. if the rate of surplus value is interpreted ‘at prices’ – namely. Not so. rough approximations al salario e profitto standard. the labor embodied is indeterminate: it changes with the commodities bought. Matching here again the problematic of the ‘New Interpretation’. after 100 years onslaught. rather than to ‘fix’ the research into a predefined path. for Sraffa the rate of surplus value. 22 The original is (mostly) in Italian: A me sembra che l'unico modo razionale di calcolo sia di partire dal saggio di interesse r (che è un fatto di osservazione) e da questo dedurre il saggio di sfruttamento (e cioè il salario standard w e da questo il saggio di sopravalore 1–w 1 ------. And that such deviations do not occur in fact. It is meant to raise questions. What I suggest is that the attitude of Sraffa towards Marx. But the profit rate in this situation is identical with the standard one. I think. Although Marx’s ‘approximation’ is justified. as the labor commanded by the (money) wage and supposed to be as a share of the net product ‘fixed’. but 150% if calculated at current prices of production. Ma il saggio del profitto della realtà è identico a quello standard. according to which the independent variable in distribution is taken to be not the wage but the rate of profits.= ----. If there is ‘freedom’ on how to spend the money wage bill. Which is the correct one? Now M.1) w w Il salario e il profitto aggregato della realtà sono. Sraffa tried to build bridges between his own scheme and Marx’s argument in ‘values’.The tiresome objector says. income: on what commds. at best..v. at best. they spend it. the workers get 40% of the nat. which we find dispersed in the Sraffa Archives at the Wren Library. is to be taken at ‘prices’ (D3/12/111: 138). the standard wage w and from that arrive at the surplus value rate 1–w 1 -------. (D3/12/111. by class struggle. In effect. at least if interpreted in the traditional way. Suppose that the (ratio of wages to profits) the rate of surplus value is 100% at values. depends on ‘utility’: whether they choose to spend their 40% on high or low org. It must be faced. Sraffa offered a ‘Marxist’ reading of his own allusion in § 44 of Production of commodities. it cannot be accepted in pure theory.1) w w The wage and the aggregate profit in this situation are. would. rough approximations of the standard wage and profit. and his labor theory of value. Instead of a conclusion What has been proposed here is just a conjectural history trying to make sense of the notes relating to Marx. comp. 139) 22 8. in the notes on Eaton.
Since. J. D. BELLOFIORE. Routledge. Il pensiero economico italiano. From the point of view of the pure market dynamics. XXII: 41-62. M. G. 1: 7-55.) Piero Sraffa’s Political Economy. (eds. History of Political Economy. – POTIER. G. and Marchionatti. R. XVI. 2003. n. and hence the division between the total living labor expended and the share which has been devoted the reproduction of the working class. The rate of surplus value of the first volume of Capital is not ‘erased’ in favour of the other definition preferred both by Sraffa and the New Interpretation. 2001. London: 362-376. But since I am now breaking the borders of ‘interpretation’ entering into the terrain of ‘reconstruction’. Gramsci. References BELLOFIORE. of course. J. a deceptive form of appearance in circulation obscuring the origin of surplus value from labor. G. Roma: 159-72. T. Monetary analyses in Sraffa’s writings: a comment on Panico. In Marx e Gramsci. GEHRKE. 5. with ‘paid labor’ (i.. eds. Sraffa e il secondo libro del Capitale. . SettembreOttobre 1960.. Società. In a monetary production economy firms as a whole are in fact setting the amount of the real consumption goods which are left available to workers. 1998. (2006). Sraffa’s path to Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities. R.P. prices of production redistribute the new value added among individual capitals in such a way that the producers of wage-goods may obtain a higher or lower amount than actually produced by the labor-power they employed. It accurately depicts the macrosocial outcome of the struggle over labor time between classes. At the same time. Sraffa on von Bortkiewicz: Recontructing the Classical Theory of Value and Distribution. evaluated at values or at prices of production. GILIBERT. 19 .e. In Cozzi. EATON. it is better that I stop here. the labor-time equivalent exhibited in the money-prices of the wage-goods bought in exchange) departing from ‘necessary labor’ (i. Petronio. I accept that the core insight of the labor theory of value is encapsulated in the identity between the ‘net product’ coming out from the living labor of the wage workers.KURZ H. mostly implicit in the book and which can be reconstructed from the Sraffa papers. An Interpretation. the ‘freedom to choose’ is something pertaining to individual consumers. Contributions to Political Economy. however. DE VIVO. that I fully agree with the theoretical picture I sketched. which saw a gulf between the macrosocial (theory of value) and the microeconomic (theory of prices) perspectives. the abstract labor-time actually performed to produce those wage-goods). Memoria e attualità. Piero Sraffa: nuovi elementi sulla biografia e sulla ricezione di Produzione di merci in Italia. I think that Sraffa did not exploit enough his initial instinct. 1960. XXII. Il modello di Sraffa e la teoria del valore-lavoro. e Paladini Musitelli. 2001. 1: 98-149. A Centenary Estimate. VI. Manifestolibri.This does not mean. R. the gross money profit/money wage rate is a different quantitative measure. the transformation of values into prices of production means a kind of redoubling of the value of labor power.e. As a consequence. C. XXXVIII. not to the working class as a whole.
RANCHETTI. XXII: 41-62. Sraffa’s contribution to Economics. KURZ. (2005). Italian Economic Papers. An essay on the theory of production as a circular process. 3: 413-41 NAPOLEONI. Essays in Memory of Giovanni Caravale. Mattioli e Sraffa. H. Review of Political Economy. S. Routledge. – SALVADORI. S. I: 251-264 (1961). The equations unveiled: Sraffa’s price equations in the making. In Nisticò. Representing the Production and Circulation of Commodities in Material Terms: on Sraffa’s Objectivism. XVII. C. N. Competing Economic Theories. Contributions to Political Economy. (2007) Distribution of surplus between social classes and value: a ‘New Interpretation’ of the Marx-Sraffa connection. Some notes on his unpublished papers.. KURZ. 1992. H. 2002. G. 1: 3-1 20 . 2004. Sul significato di Produzione di merci a mezzo di merci. D. F. mimeo. PERRI. 2003. London: 177-96. – Tosato. Un carteggio i nedito del 1960 tra Napoleoni.D.GILIBERT.